So, you fancy spending your free time on a tropical Thai island – but is it going to be Phuket or Koh Samui? They’re the coconut-drinking, Pad-Thai-eating, Full-Moon-Party-loving nation’s two largest
isles and both are jam-packed with affordable allures that’ll help take your holiday from zero to
We know how important it is to get the location for a big trip bang on (and how annoying it is when
you spend your hard-earned cash jetting off somewhere which isn’t quite what you had in mind…)
Choosing between these two holiday hotspots isn’t quite as easy as selecting the one with the
shortest flight time though; they’re roughly the same distance depending on your departure point.
Instead, you’ll need to think long and hard about what your dream Thai island jaunt looks like.
Luckily, we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of both islands and tried to solve the Phuket vs Koh
Samui conundrum for you. You can thank us later.
For weird and wonderful nightlife…
Full moon parties, cheap cocktails on the beach and clubs which stay open well into the small hours are all up for grabs in Thailand. Some areas of the country have better nightlife scenes than others though – and that’s exactly where Phuket pips Koh Samui to the post.
For hardcore party animals, it’s tough to beat the wild mix of neon-lit pubs, go-go bars and mega clubs along Bangla Road in Patong Beach. There are some more low-key destinations where you can party in Phuket too, including tiki-style clubs right on the sand at Kamala Beach and the aptly named Paradise Beach. On the other side of the island, Phuket Town is where the locals and expats gravitate to for a good time without the excessive Patong crowds.
All things considered; Koh Samui’s nightlife isn’t anything to baulk at. The smaller island on Thailand’s east coast has plenty of beachfront drinking holes in places like Chaweng Bay and Bophut Beach. If you’d rather sip pina coladas out of a coconut or enjoy the occasional ice-cold pint in the sunshine, there’s loads of less rowdy spots to be found near Lamai or Maenam.
And if you do want to go all-out, Koh Samui is only a short boat ride away from Koh Phangan – the home of the original Full Moon Party.
For mouth-watering cuisine…
Whether you want to whet your appetite with endless plates of Pad Thai or you’ve got a soft spot for spicy curries, your taste buds will be in heaven no matter where you decide to travel to in Thailand.
Foodies trying to choose between Phuket or Koh Samui will definitely be in a quandary as they both have their fair share of excellent eateries. Phuket boasts a hefty mix of fast-food chains and fine dining establishments (particularly around Chalong Bay), in addition to vibrant food markets where you can sample mouth-watering local street food – including lots of fresh seafood – for a pittance.
Considering it’s half the size of Phuket, Koh Samui’s huge range of restaurants is truly impressive. There are places to suit every budget and craving (not just Thai), plus you’ll find plenty of fancier spots around Bophur Bay if you’re tempted to treat yourself.
Fisherman’s Village night market is also a great spot for some authentic street grub. As a general rule, restaurants right on the beach in both Koh Samui and Phuket tend to have higher price tags, although we’re still talking Thai prices, so it’s hardly going to break the bank…
Winner: Phuket and Koh Samui
For underwater adventures…
From snorkelling with shoals of rainbow-hued fish to diving down into the deep to spot turtles and magnificent manta rays, Thailand’s coastlines are an absolute paradise for lovers of the aquatic world. When it comes to Phuket vs Koh Samui though, it’s a real toss-up between the two.</p
Phuket has long been known as a scuba diving and surfing hotspot in Asia, however we reckon it’s Koh Samui’s calm coves and colourful coral reefs that just push it into first place. While it’s seen a lot of development over the last decade, the island is still less built up than Phuket, meaning the waters around it tend to be cleaner and more abundant in marine life (perfect for those underwater GoPro shots). For guaranteed glimpses of glorious sea creatures, make your way to Ao Phang Na or Taling Ngam where you’ll discover spectacular snorkelling around amazing underwater rock formations.
Let’s not forget the fact that Koh Samui is on the doorstep of the protected Angthong National Marine Park, either. Spread out over 102km 2 and made up of 42 islands enveloped on all sides by pristine ocean and well-populated reefs, it’s a must-see for aquaphiles.
Explore some of its larger islands like Koh Mae (don’t skip its otherworldly Emerald Lake) on a day trip from Koh Samui or spend a few days hopping between islets, snoozing in beach huts and waking up to daily swims in the park’s wonderfully warm sea.
Winner: Koh Samui
For non-stop sightseeing…
If you like every hour of your holidays to be allocated to some kind of activity, Phuket is probably the better bet. Its larger size affords it more than enough attractions to fill your time with, whether you’re into taking selfies outside enormous monuments like the Big Buddha Phuket or browsing for bargains at one of many cheap shopping complexes scattered around the island.
You’ll still find a significant amount of stuff to keep you busy on Koh Samui too, especially if you’re into more zen allures. Blissful Buddhist temples seem to be ten a penny, plus there are numerous waterfalls to trek to and serene sculpture gardens to wander around (here’s looking at you, Tarnim Magic Garden).
Just want to escape the hustle and bustle of the daily grind? Koh Samui is your guy (or gal). The island’s status as a yoga retreat mecca automatically puts it above Phuket as the best place to recharge your batteries. It’s also inundated with great spas if the only way you can truly relax is on a massage table.
Not much of a yogi? Don’t sweat it as there are dozens of other ways to enjoy some downtime in Koh Samui. You’ll spot gorgeous beaches galore, with Silver Beach usually lauded as the most stunning on the island (unfortunately, that also makes it busy in high season). For a bit more seclusion, farther-flung Taling Ngam is a great shout – think butter-soft sand, still waters that are just begging you to take a dip and plenty of palm trees to flop down beneath with a good book.
Winner: Koh Samui
Decided Thailand’s second largest island definitely comes up trumps? Dream, Plan and Book your next trip to Koh Samui using our awesome Orbzii app.